The Equality Act 2010 came into force on 1 October 2010. The purpose of the Act is to unify the present law on discrimination and to extend its protection outside of the workplace.
Its ethos is that everyone has the right to be treated fairly and be protected from discrimination and harassment. Over the past 50 years successive Governments have introduced laws to promote civil rights and equality. Starting with the Race Relations Acts in the 1960s to the Equal Pay and Sex Discrimination Acts in the 1970s. From protecting the rights for disabled people in the 1990s to the introduction of civil partnerships in 2004. The Equality Act is an important step beyond this, extending and consolidating these rights and influencing the way in which services can be provided.
Discrimination beyond the work place
The scope of protection from discrimination has been extended beyond the workplace offering you causes of action in the civil courts. If, as a consumer, you are refused a service, treated less favourably, subject to harassment because of your gender, sexual orientation, age, race, belief or because you are disabled you may have a claim for compensation or a right to force the provider to action what is required or rectify the issues that have been created as a result.
For example, it is unlawful to refuse the provision of any services to a person, because of their sexual orientation, such as the previous case where a couple were denied accommodation at a bed and breakfast facility because they were gay.
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Discrimination by Association and Perception
Discrimination by association and perception will be extended to include the grounds of disability, sex, gender reassignment and age both in and outside of the employment arena.
Effectively, this will codify and extend the decision given in the case of Coleman v Attridge Law where the European Court of Justice ruled that it was unlawful to subject an employee to harassment and discrimination after asking for time off to take care for her disabled son.
The Equality Act also sees the introduction of different grounds for claiming disability discrimination - such as limiting an employer's enquiries of a prospective employee's health and disability, prior to an offer or employment.
Reasonable adjustments are now a requirement of service providers to ensure fair and equal availability and access.
The Equality Act introduced transparency rules regarding the level of disabled employees employed. This also applies to public authorities.
Vegans, Scientologists and atheists could be given the same level of protection against discrimination as religious groups, according to a draft code of practice that accompanies the Act.
A City Law Firm has a wealth of experience dealing with discrimination issues, whether they are in the workplace, or in your personal or business capacity. From LGBT issues to disability and age discrimination, we are able to assist you by providing clear, up to date and pragmatic advice, as well as advising you on the commerciality of pursuing such an action.